February 5, 2016 – While in an auto repair shop waiting room a few weeks ago, I happened upon the nightly news from a European broadcasting company on an obscure cable channel. The program fascinated me for several reasons; the main being that its anchors—a mix of men and women from England, Germany, Sweden and Turkey—looked like the typical people you’d meet on a train or walking the streets.
I may not have noticed the averageness of the news staff if I hadn’t become accustomed to American news anchors, their perfect straight white teeth, sculpted features, flawless skin and model thin frames. The European anchors didn’t mask their crooked teeth or their less than perfect skin. They weren’t dressed in high fashion designer clothing; they had average builds, wore subtle makeup and weren’t perfectly polished like their American counterparts. Yet, they weren’t unattractive, and had mastered the skills to perform the job.
At first I wondered why they didn’t take the extra (and artificial) steps to improve their appearance. The concept seemed rather shocking, actually. After a few more minutes of watching, I began to find it refreshing.
Do Europeans—especially those in high-profile media jobs—feel more secure about themselves than their American colleagues? It would seem so, although I only observed a small sampling of the population. They were who they were and they seemed perfectly comfortable with it.
I then recalled watching a concert on PBS last year. It was a clip show of performances from the 1960s and 1970s, and the artists of yesterday observed the same “natural standards”. Again, they weren’t unattractive, but their less than perfect appearances did stand out against a lot of America’s musical talent today.
No doubt, the concept of beauty in America has changed dramatically through the years. You might even say it became exaggerated. What was once reserved for the Hollywood elite has become standard in many American communities. It’s not unusual for the average woman to sport “fake” hair extensions, nails, tans, eyelashes, lips, multiple other body parts and more.
While there’s nothing wrong with making an effort to look your best, it seems we’ve taken it to a new extreme, spending thousands of dollars a year on procedures and products just to feel beautiful. What that says about us is a topic for another blog post.
Here is an excerpt from an American writer who blogs for Hush after a trip to Europe:
“The women of Europe looked natural. (And no, I’m not talking about au natural like the unshaven stereotypes we are often presented with.) Their confidence radiated from their sparse make-up and real hair. It was also in Europe that my eyes were opened to how other countries view our standards of beauty. When asked, the European men and women I talked to declared how exaggerated, over-the-top, and even trashy North American beauty standards are. This was astonishing to hear, and slightly embarrassing to be associated with, but I started to agree with them. We are over the top in our beauty choices.”
Here’s a video that made me smile after writing this post. The filmmaker conducted a social experiment at a performing arts high school in Chicago. It’s theme: “beauty”.